The last problem you want to have on your camping trip or when backpacking is failure of your tent. It needs to be in great working order, ready to go up immediately when needed if a sudden storm develops. Keeping it in good shape requires a few simple maintenance steps. A little regular care will prevent a camping disaster that ruins your camping and backpacking fun or cuts your outdoor adventure short.
One easy way to protect your tent is simply to keep it clean. After each use, wash it thoroughly. If the use was light and it did not really get dirty, simply airing it out and shaking everything out of the inside and off the exterior should suffice. Washing consists of using a damp cloth to wipe off any dirt or debris e.g. bird droppings. Follow the manufacturer's care instructions if you want to use a washing machine to clean the tent. The machine must be able to handle the load and the detergent used must be one made for tents. Use the machine's gentle cycle. Using the wrong cleaning product, water temperature or failing to follow manufacturer's instructions could ruin the tent's waterproofing treatment or damage the material. Nikwax is an example of a cleaner that will not affect the tent's usability in the rain or affect the integrity of the material. Once cleaned, do not pack it away unless it is has been completely air-dried - any remaining moisture could be a problem if stored with the tent.
To pack it away correctly, use the bag and load the tent into it without making neat folds that could create permanent creases. These creases could eventually become the areas that deteriorate first because of cracking. The largest sack available is best for long-term storage. When in use, clearly a smaller sack easier to carry is more appropriate.
Whether an individual, 8 person or 4 man tent, they normally have been pre-treated with waterproofing when purchased, and the quality of the treatment is generally very satisfactory. Nevertheless, you cannot go wrong by giving your tent your own application. Many different types and brands of coatings or sprays are sold that provide great waterproofing results. One area particularly susceptible to leaks is the tent's seams. Maintain the integrity of the seams' waterproofing and you may save a lot of leaks. Caution: don't fold the tent away after applying waterproofing as it may be sticky and could become stuck where folded together. If you must fold it immediately, a light sprinkling of baby powder will prevent stickiness.
Just these few precautions will help your tent serve you for many years and ensure your outdoor experiences are at least tent-trouble free.